On Tuesday, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the Trump administration would continue to confront what the United States sees as a militarization of the South China Sea islands. This decision comes at a time when the US has drawn condemnation from China for an operation in the region that has been contested for quite some time now. According to media observers in the area, two battleships of the US Navy sailed near the islands that have been claimed by the People’s Republic of China on Sunday. This comes at a time when the US President Trump seeks to seek Beijing cooperation on North Korea.
The military operation that has been famously known as the freedom of navigation is the latest attempt by the United States to counter China’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the waters. The waters in the South China Sea have been to be strategic by Japan, China and other navies of Southeast Asian countries. Beijing expressed its disappointment by saying that it had sent aircraft and ships to issue a warning to the US Navy warships to leave the area. Mattis said that there was only one country that was opposed to the move by the US military to patrol the waters.
He added that the area was regarded as international waters and many countries wanted to exercise their freedom of navigation. The former four-star general was speaking to news reporters on his way to Hawaii. The US secretary of defense is expected to preside over the change of guard in the US Pacific Command. The operation that was conducted on Sunday had been undergoing drills and planning for months on end. However, the operation comes at a critical time when the US Pentagon disinvited Beijing in a big naval drill that is to be hosted by the United States military.
National security and defence experts have said that the military operations being conducted by the Pentagon are mainly symbolic and that they have no impact on how China will behave going forward. Officials from the US Defense Department have complained the Beijing has not been clear about its military build-up in the area. The officials have also expressed their concerns about how China is using the South China Sea islands as a haven to collect intelligence. US military satellites have indicated that China has placed anti-ship cruise and surface-to-air-missile batteries at one of the islands.